Published Papers - Abstract 260

Clemens S, Matthews S, Young AF & Powers J. Alcohol consumption of Australian women: Results from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Drug and Alcohol Review, 2007; 26(5): 525-535

Introduction and Aims: Alcohol misuse is responsible for extensive personal harm and high societal costs. Research specifically related to women’s alcohol consumption is important due to gender differences in clinical outcomes and disease progression. Design and Methods: This study examines longitudinal changes in the patterns of alcohol consumption associated with harm in the long-term (chronic) and short-term (acute) as defined by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. Results are presented for three age cohorts (18-23 years, 45-50 years, and 70-75 years) using data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health 1996-2003. Initial response rates for the study were 41%, 54% and 36% for the Younger, Mid-aged and Older cohort, respectively. Results: The percentages of women that initiated usual weekly consumption in excess of 140 grams of alcohol, designated as long-term risky or high risk consumption, between Survey 1 and 2 were 2.7%, 2.1% and 1.7% (Younger, Mid-aged and Older cohorts, respectively). Similarly, between Survey 1 and Survey 2, 7.8% of Younger women and 2.5% of Mid-aged women initiated consumption of 50 grams of alcohol on one occasion at least weekly, placing them at risk of alcohol-related harm in the short-term weekly. Examining data across the three time points in the Younger cohort, 0.3% of women were at risk of alcohol-related harm in the long-term across all three time points, and 9.2% were at risk at one or two time points. The percentage of younger women at risk of alcohol-related harm in the short-term at least weekly was 3.4% at risk at all three time points and 24% at risk at one or two time points. Discussion and Conclusions: This study indicates that there is a small percentage of women that maintain levels of alcohol consumption associated with increased risk of morbidity and mortality over time but a much larger proportion of women that drink at hazardous levels sporadically during the life course. Prevention efforts may need to target transient high risk alcohol consumers differently than consistently heavy alcohol consumers. Non-response bias and attrition may have caused the prevalence of both entrenched and episodic heavy consumption to be underestimated.

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